A recurring and resonant message from the resident composers at the New Music Festival @ Bowling Green (that’s Sarah Kirkland Snider and Steven Mackey, if you’re wondering) was encouragement towards authenticity, self-reflection, and self-discovery–a complex issue to unpack, as they noted. As they recognized repeatedly, separation from social, hierarchical, and musical influences is damned near impossible. What we have consumed, in part, creates (or at least informs) the lenses through which we understand new experiences.
As application deadlines loom for festivals and graduate schools, personal statements welcome (re: demand) this sort of self-reflection, but myriad influences and environments create myriad Nikos. I am unequivocally a different Niko in a classroom, at a concert, or at a bar. New Music Fests, by jamming these environments together, so too jam together disjunct Nikos in a complex and sometimes troublesome way. I can feel myself pilfering mannerisms and radically adapting my persona to try to camouflage myself in different environments. A fair question then, if my self is still as malleable as my environment, is which Niko makes it into the statement of purpose? The ‘authentic’ self seems weak, alterable. Just ask Jim Carrey.
One of the most humiliating stories my parents tell of me or my brother happened well before most of my conscious memories. It was a crisp Autumn Saturday in Collegetown Iowa, and guests were stopping by our house before the football game on campus just a few blocks away. They knocked, and I (or my brother) did the polite thing and answered the door. The only problem–we were freshly showered and yet to get dressed. Perhaps the shock on our visitors’ faces should have cued embarrassment.
It did not.
Presumably just realizing our nude state, three- or four-year-old Niko or Lukas shouted “I’m naked, buddy-boy,” and took off running back into the house.
Let me channel four-year-old Niko today, and this application season. May I attack personal statements and interviews with the naked courage, empowerment, and delight of an unrestrained child. With uninhibited self-understanding.
Would shouting my younger self’s candid phrase be an honest way to attack grad school interviews?